Akintunde Oyebode: A storm in a teacup (YNaija FrontPage)

 It was a speech lacking the conviction of a man speaking from the mountain top; and was filled with the usual anecdotes of plans and phantom achievements..

One of my favourite actors is the Australian Geoffrey Rush. I was struck by his performance as David Helfgott, the talented pianist who suffered a mental breakdown, in Shine; and his performance in that movie deservedly won him the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Actor in 1997. It took 13 years to see him in another career defining role, this time he was cast as Lionel Logue, speech therapist of King George VI, in The King’s Speech.

The movie is about how King George VI overcomes stammering to deliver a rousing wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s declaration of the war on Germany in 1939. It is a reminder of how oratory prowess often determines how people perceive their leader. I can draw up a long  list: Martin Luther King Jnr., Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Lee Kuan Yew, Leopold Senghor, John F. Kennedy, to the most recent of them, Barack Obama; one thing is consistent, the ability to rouse a nation with words and action.

My memory of The King’s Speech was revived listening to President Jonathan on May 29, a day laughably referred to as Democracy Day by the Nigerian Government. It was a speech lacking the conviction of a man speaking from the mountain top; and was filled with the usual anecdotes of plans and phantom achievements. It is particularly saddening that more than most, this president has an opportunity to rewrite Nigeria’s history, but seems to baulk at the daunting task.

Under his watch, a monumental fraud in subsidy payments was discovered; allegations thrive that the state treasury is being augmented by ‘Oil Majors’, masking NNPC’s alleged bankruptcy. It was disappointing, if not surprising, to listen to a presidential address without a strong message of this government’s commitment to the prosecution of those who raped the nation ceaselessly. It is now more than 60 days since the Nuhu Ribadu led committee was inaugurated, we won’t hold our collective breath waiting for its report. We can safely assume that those who benefitted from the subsidy fraud, estimated at over $7 billion, will be asked to go and sin no more; privately, of course. The government is about to pass a Petroleum Industry Bill that does little to improve the transparency of the oil sector, or ensure Nigeria maximizes the revenue from its prized assets, an indication it is still “business as usual.”

It was interesting to hear the President say “the courts must do more” to uphold the integrity of our democracy. He made these comments while, in my opinion, the government illegally prevents Justice Ayo Salami from taking his deserved place as the President of the Court of Appeal, despite a vote by the National Judicial Council (NJC) to reinstate him after months in limbo. The speed with which the initial decision by the NJC to suspend Justice Salami was affirmed by the government seems to have disappeared; it is a reminder of the days Clement Akpambgo and Bassey Ikpeme held court.

One of the attributes of a great leader is the ability to identify competent, sometimes smarter subordinates. This is where our leader might be lacking a bit of nous. The early signs were worrying, especially when the identity of the president’s chief of staff was revealed. The chief of staff is the president’s Man Friday, the one that sets the tone for his administration. When the deputy governor of one of the worst performing state governments is appointed into such a critical role, it is a strong sign of mediocrity. Apart from the ministries of Finance and Agriculture, most of the critical portfolios are occupied by journeymen; seemingly unable to transform a local government, let alone a country. Our leader might not be a lion, but he doesn’t help the case by surrounding himself with lambs.

Every great public speaker knows the importance of delivering speeches with passion and fluency; but what matters most is the credibility that backs such oratory prowess up. The President has 365 days to work on his credibility and oratory prowess. He will soon run out of distractions that deflect public attention from the shortcomings of his government.


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (5)

  1. Great piece as usual.

    I love a good orator, but you know what I like better? A performing leader. I know the President may not learn how to speak with charisma, but if he learns how to make things work, I will praise him to high heavens. Anyway, I don't have hope of him "speaking or doing". Let me just live my life and affect the few people around me positively. This country depresses everyday.

  2. Now this is writing….."Our leader might nt be a lion but he doesn't help his case by surroundin himself with lambs"..Goodluck has broken the heart o' soo many Nigerians, we asked for a chance but his far off from the 'proving' part. We need change and we need it now, if he won't learn to speak, at least he should perfect the art of 'DOING'..

  3. Great read. Worrisome though, when looking at the current crop of "ruling" and opposition party leaders, that no one famed for oratory prowess immediately comes to mind.

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